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Minnesota Poverty Panel Gavels in Today

August 2, 2007

A 20-member state legislative commission begins work today on a plan to end poverty in Minnesota. Sen. John Marty, co-chairman, Legislative Committee to End Poverty in Minnesota by 2020, says despite the state's relative economic well-being, it's a widespread problem.

"Most Minnesotans don't realize that, sometimes, in their own neighborhood, there are people who are working fulltime, but can't afford health care. Many people are working fulltime, and can't even afford housing for their family."

He believes that Minnesota has the resources to eliminate poverty. The Commission, which was established by the Legislature, reports its recommendations, and goes out of business, a year from December.

Marty adds that while there's no agenda yet, he expects wages to be high on the list.

"Whether it's a higher minimum wage, whether we have more of a push to make sure that all jobs pay a living wage in Minnesota, the single most important thing we could do to end poverty, is make sure that people who are working can earn the money they need to support themselves."

Marty expects the commission will also look into the high cost of housing and health care, which can push people into poverty. He explains that while poverty is sometimes associated with urban areas, it exists statewide. And, has huge consequences.

"In addition to the difficulty of getting an adequate diet and sufficient shelter and basic necessities, it tends to isolate people from society. And, they're lots of senior citizens who live alone, and they're kind of shut in their own little world. Nobody paying attention to them. They can't afford a phone. They can't afford necessities. And so, they're very much lonely and isolated from the rest of society."

More information is available online at www.commissions.leg.state.mn.us/lcep/index.htm. The Commission includes nine bipartisan House and Senate members, and two Governor appointees.

Jim Wishner/Eric Mack, Public News Service - MN